There is something so magnificent about escaping. Escaping the crappy day we had, escaping bad company, escaping our own relentless thoughts, escaping the growth that is required of us in an uncomfortable season.
I’m actually *awesome* at this.
And you can pick your poison too. Some escape difficulties by staying distracted through their phones, music, and constant noise. While others keep so busy between work and friends that they could not possibly imagine carving out time to check in with God, to listen to their own thoughts and His leading.
Filling your life with tons of other voices is a great way to ensure that you never hear your own.
Myself, well, I prefer binge-watching copious amounts of television alone so I don’t accidentally express the emotions I’m running from or stumble into conviction. I once watched six seasons of Grey’s Anatomy in a month because I had just moved across the country, felt out of sorts, and refused to come to grips with a break-up I knew was inevitable.
Healthy, AND an effective use of time.
You’d think that since I’m aware of my penchant for escapism that I would have grown out of it—at least a bit—in the last five years. Nope. Not really…Nope.
Every day it is a struggle to sit in front of my computer and write. I would much rather be watching The Blacklist right now than trying to sift through hard-won truths and boil them down into words. I believe there is actually a part of me, despite working to be self-aware and embrace growth, that would really rather slip blissfully into incognizance and stagnancy where I never have to be challenged.
Because it’s easier. Growth is hard. Knowing yourself is difficult. And knowing God can often feel even more elusive.
Growth is disruptive, it is painful. If we stop running from it, growth will shake up our routines, our carefully crafted identities and personal desires.
Growth will pit who we were against who we are trying to become. It will open our eyes to our shortcomings so we can never unsee, never unknow what is required of us, even if we successfully avoid it.
It is uncomfortable, terrifying work to show up, look in the mirror and ask God to reveal our faults and flaws and to help us become more like Him. The pruning that takes place, the dreams that must die, the purging of habits we have formed, the abandonment of self-serving plans…showing up for that, well, it feels like unwrapping a rather large chain in which we have found ourselves imprisoned. A chain that has coiled itself around our necks, threatening our air supply; but when God attempts to remove it, we howl in pain, convinced that as He is untangling, He will surely choke the life out of us. At this stage, many of us run, our chains flapping and dragging behind us as we go. Yes, perhaps we could live happier without the chains. But they’ve grown bearable, their weight familiar and the process of removing them too frightening. And so we decide to only engage in activities that help us overlook their presence.
Escapism… except you’re not escaping, you’re prolonging your own agony.
The funny thing about escapism is that it can masquerade itself to look a lot like “waiting”. And after all, patience is a virtue. “Waiting” seems a lot less sinister than “escaping”.
I have spent so much time waiting for so many things. And in the meantime, I have been living a half-life, a life of poor stewardship and discontentment. A life spent pining over the stages that aren’t here yet. As a result, the discontentment grows. I slap Band-Aids on entire seasons, looking to activities and people to fulfill me, or at the very least distract me, from A) My gross feelings; and B) The work I should be doing in a season that may not look how I want, but is still a part of my life. Waiting isn’t synonymous with “do nothing”.
I don’t get to ignore growing lessons for entire days, months, years, just to bide my time until a season I am looking forward to reveals itself. I do not get to watch Grey’s Anatomy until suddenly I’m a published author with a family and a large house on the bay. Though I may want to, I cannot sleep through life and arrive at a season I prefer to my present circumstances.
As someone who claims to be a follower of Jesus, I do not get the luxury of looking to anything else to fulfill me.
If I believe what I say, then the last thing I should want is to escape difficult circumstances and shove off life-shaping growth in favor of empty distraction and a temporary placation.
God has placed me in these circumstances to know Him, to learn to trust Him…and to deal with my internal crap. Metaphorical, not literal.
BUT IT’S SO HARD BECAUSE IT’S NOT VERY FUN AT ALL, GUYS.
And since it ISN’T fun (and we seem to prize fun above every other emotion)…I have deep grooves of earth behind me as I look back and see all the places I have drug my feet. It has not been a delicate journey. It has been full of emotion, of quitting, of preferring the thing that’s always just out of reach, it has been a journey of escapism while I “wait”.
You may be waiting for something real, something good. That’s legitimate. There are periods in life where God forces us to wait on His timing. But how might our lives and those seasons be transformed if we leaned into Him, listened to Him, hoped for HIM rather than what we aren’t getting? What would life look like if we stopped dragging our feet?
Take it from me, I have wallowed in complacency while simultaneously raging against it, and then I have the nerve to wonder why nothing has changed.
Nothing ever changes because I have not been willing to allow MYSELF to be changed in a way that forces my actions to mirror my words.
“I want to’s” and “I will’s” are no longer solutions. They are empty words that are not even given the courtesy of being promises when they are spoken from my lips. Because I never do what I say I will. Because it has felt too hard to grow, to let go of myself in favor of Him.
Why should I expect my life to change if I refuse to do anything different than live in the same broken system—in the same escapism and coping mechanisms—that I have built around myself? It may be less challenging…but at what cost to myself? At what cost to others who depend on me? Who love me? Who might be positively impacted if I would stop clinging to what is comfortable and stand up to do what I know is right, what I have been called to do?
The problem is, it always costs us something. Every day I spend writing a book with no “real” job makes me feel like I am slowly dying a neurotic death of obscurity and insecurity and a million other words that end in ”ity”. Every day I choose to love God more than my desire for the next season, forces me to sacrifice those hopes and dreams on an altar to Him, making Him the true Lord of my life. But who am I as a Christ follower if what I am really after is what God might give me, rather than God himself? Our chief call in life is to know and love Him…not to know He might give us what we want and love what He gives.
I know this can feel like a lot. And truly, I applaud you if you actually read to this point. But because it feels like a lot, I want to boil this all down to two points that answer the “Okay, I get it. Escapism is bad. But waiting still sucks, so what do I do now that I know spending 7 hours on Reddit is no longer an option that will help me grow and get to where I need to be?”
1) Love God.
Not just lip service, but let it impact your life. Let it inconvenience you and dip into your TV time. Full disclosure, the last time I did my own personal quiet time was in September. I have not been allowing God to permeate my life. My head knowledge is constantly knocking on the walls of my heart begging to be put into real practice. I have giant seasons where I have settled for “good enough”. But the truth is, I’ll have no self-respect, no REAL rest and peace (which is honestly what you’re looking for when you employ escapism) if I constantly try to ignore the Holy Spirit begging me to spend time with Him. I will not be ready for the seasons I desire if I don’t first allow Him to equip me. I will never fulfill anything that I’m actually meant to do without first loving God in a way that gets me outside myself. And I will never be able to weather the disappointments, the thwarted timelines, the seasons of waiting, without ultimately being filled by God and nothing else.
2) Grow (Up).
No seriously. Children are who have to be constantly entertained and expect the universe to always intervene on their boredom. Children are too immature to realize when they are being totally self-indulgent. Children whine when they are uncomfortable. Stop it.
I’m not saying you need to stop working on your passion project and go get a desk job, or whatever. That would make me a hypocrite. But I am urging you to grow, even if you’re waiting for something. Being a growing person doesn’t mean you have it all together, but it does mean you’re going to stop avoiding your life when it doesn’t look how you wish it did. Don’t put your life on pause while you’re waiting. Face the hard truths. Be brave. Do the hard work. You still have people, blessings, story lines that are currently in your hand while you’re waiting. Pay attention to them. Don’t overlook what THIS season holds. Be faithful. Don’t ferret away the days waiting for when you’ll feel ready…because you’ll never feel ready if you don’t do something different. Part of growth is jumping in with both feet and showing up even when it’s hard. Do the deep heart work that is required of you to be ready for that leap. Stop avoiding it. Face uncomfortable truths and let God speak into the depths of who you are. Let Him shape your priorities, outlook, desires, and identity. Keep chipping away at it even when it feels you aren’t making progress.